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Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)
By Edward Bathurst Ryder

Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk in 1727. From an early age, he was drawn to art and to the beauties of the English countryside. At the age of 15 his parents decided that his talent was such that he deserved more formal training and he was sent to London where he studied first under the engraver Gravelot and later at St. Martinís Lane Academy.

After marrying, the young Gainsborough established himself as a popular local painter in the town of his birth before moving on to Ipswich. At a time when landscape work was generally considered to be mere background painting and was often allotted to painters' apprentices, he delighted in painting scenes of nature. So fond was he of natural settings that he would bring rocks, bits of grass, and even vegetable greens into his studio to set up little mock landscape models. It was not until he later moved to Bath in about 1760 that he became more fashionable and more famous. Soon, he found his skills as a portrait painter in high demand among the elite of society.

As his fame increased, he moved to London where, in 1768, he was one of the first members of the Royal Academy. Known for his warm, natural depictions, much of his work is slightly less formal in tone that that of his famous contemporary (and sometimes rival) Sir Joshua Reynolds. Among his most famous portraits are those of Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, David Garrick, Lord Cornwallis, and that of the young Jonathan Buttall which has come to be known as the "Blue Boy" His landscapes are less well-known, though "The Market Cart" and "The Watering Place" are widely admired for their evocative, pastoral beauty.

Gainsborough's House The museum and art gallery at the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough.

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